m. c. de marco: To invent new life and new civilizations...


NaNoWriMo is coming! In preparation, I’ve created a Scrivener template called Scree for writing hyperfiction and gamebooks. (For the many definitions of interactive fiction, see my previous blog post.)

As usual, Scrivener discussion in the NaNoWriMo forums will be crammed into one infinitely long thread, which will then be deleted next October, when the whole shebang starts again. This is especially unfortunate because it’s already so hard to get useful information about Scrivener online. Back when Scrivener was more obscure I thought the obscurity explained it, but during my searches for help writing my template I discovered the real reason: the Scrivener forums are not indexed by Google. If I were in NaNoWriMo mode, I could go on for 1666 ⅔ words about people who make their websites and/or software harder to use with inexplicable decisions like blocking Google’s spiders.

Instead, I’ll just tell you a bit about Scrivener and the template.

Scrivener is a powerful content-generation tool for writers that allows you to concentrate on composing and structuring long and difficult documents. While it gives you complete control of the formatting, its focus is on helping you get to the end of that awkward first draft.

Most notably for hyperfiction, Scrivener allows you to structure your draft hierarchically into a tree of parts branching into chapters branching into scenes (or whatever other structure you like), while still outputting a linear document. (In most genres, the reader is expecting that linear story, but in hypertext the reader is navigating one of many paths in that tree.) Scrivener also assigns titles to each branch and leaf of your tree; these titles are often omitted from linear stories, but are useful for navigating gamebooks.

Since I was already familiar with the Markdown-style text format twee for Twine 1, my goal was to use my Scrivener template to turn a bunch of linked gamebook scenes into a twee file for use with Twine 1 or 2. To this end I Googled unsuccessfully for the answers to many simple questions about making Scrivener templates, and eventually read the manual to figure most things out.

The next step in this process was Twee2, a Ruby gem that takes a twee file and turns it into an HTML gamebook. The only trouble there is the scary command line factor; it would be nice if Twee2 were more integrated with Twine 2 so that someone unfamiliar with the command line could just import the twee file to Twine and be safe in a GUI again. Maybe I’ll try to set that up at some point.

There’s also a somewhat scary import process for those who want to move a pre-existing Twine or twee story into Scrivener for editing. So for the moment, the process is either scary or clunky, depending on your persuasion, but it works. I expect I’ll even make some improvements over the course of NaNoWriMo.


I forgot to mention that Scrivener is having its annual free trial for NaNoWriMo until December 7th or so. NaNo winners get a discount.

Update #2

The download link on the Scree page is now fixed.